Song Exploder

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Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.

217 épisodes

24 février 2021 - 00:19:44
Sasha Sloan is a singer and songwriter based in Nashville. She put out her debut album, Only Child, last year. Before that, she’d written songs for artists like Katy Perry, John Legend, and Charli XCX, and she’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by electronic artists Odesza and Kygo. Sasha made her album with her boyfriend, producer Henry Allen, aka King Henry, whose other production credits include songs by Beyoncé and Diplo. In this episode, Sasha, along with Henry, tells the story of making her song "Until It Happens to You." For more, visit songexploder.net/sasha-sloan.
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10 février 2021 - 00:19:18
PJ Morton is a singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s the first artist ever to be nominated for a Grammy for the Best R&B album three years in a row. In 2020, he won the Grammy for Best R&B song for his track, "Say So," which is a duet with the singer JoJo, a platinum-selling artist in her own right. But that version of "Say So" almost didn’t come to exist. In this episode, PJ takes us through his original voice memos, the demos, and the isolated pieces of the final studio recording, as he tells the story of how the track was created, then disappeared, and then got re-created—and ended up becoming one of his biggest songs. For more, visit songexploder.net/pj-morton.
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27 janvier 2021 - 00:24:46
HAIM is a band from Los Angeles, made up of the sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim. They’ve released three albums, and they’ve been nominated for three Grammys. Over the years, they’ve worked extensively with Grammy-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Danielle and Ariel share the emotional backstory of the song “Summer Girl,” from HAIM’s third album, Women in Music Pt. III. In this episode, they break down their experience creating the song, along with Este Haim and the song’s co-producer and co-writer Rostam. For more, visit songexploder.net/haim.
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13 janvier 2021 - 00:18:28
The legendary singer/songwriter Yusuf / Cat Stevens released his first album in 1967. He’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and his albums have sold millions. In 2020, he released Tea for the Tillerman², a re-imagining of his hit 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. In the song “Father & Son,” he sings a duet between the two title characters, doing both voices. But in the 2020 version, he approached this song in a kind of astonishing way—he recorded the part of the father, but for the part of the son, he used a live recording of himself from 1970, taken from a show he played at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. So the two parts are still both sung in his voice, but 50 years apart. In this episode, the 200th episode of Song Exploder, Yusuf / Cat Stevens tells the story of how he created, and then re-created “Father & Son.” For more, visit songexploder.net/yusuf-cat-stevens.
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2 décembre 2020 - 00:17:58
Jewel is a singer-songwriter from Homer, Alaska, who’s received four Grammy nominations and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her debut album, Pieces of You, came out in 1995, and a 25th anniversary edition was released in November 2020. That album contains the hit song "You Were Meant for Me," but it turns out it wasn’t a runaway success—not at first. In this episode, Jewel traces the history of making “You Were Meant For Me,” starting with the demo, and moving through all the different versions that were made along the way. songexploder.net/jewel
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16 décembre 2020 - 00:23:09
Common is a Grammy- and Oscar-winning rapper, actor, and activist from Chicago. He’s been making records since 1992, and in October, he released his thirteenth album, A Beautiful Revolution. In this episode, he breaks down how he made the song “A Riot In My Mind,” along with a handful of collaborators, including Lenny Kravitz and a cameo from Chuck D. songexploder.net/common
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18 novembre 2020 - 00:27:04
Billie Eilish started releasing music when she was 14 years old. Her debut album came out last year, when she was 17. It debuted at Number 1 on Billboard, went triple platinum, and won five Grammys. Billie made that record with her brother and creative partner, producer Finneas O’Connell, in their parents’ house in Highland Park, Los Angeles.  While working on that album, they also started writing this song, “Everything I Wanted,” which came out as a single in November 2019. It was Billie’s second top ten hit, and it went double platinum, too. In this episode, you’ll hear some of the original voice memos Billie and Finneas made while writing, and the two of them explain why the song was almost never finished. songexploder.net/billie-eilish
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11 novembre 2020 - 00:31:31
This episode is a little different. It’s a re-issue of Phoebe Bridgers’ Song Exploder episode from January 2019, along with a brand new segment where she and I talk about dealing with writer’s block. Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. In September 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. One of the breakout songs from that album was “Scott Street,” a song Phoebe co-wrote with her drummer, Marshall Vore. Coming up first in this episode, Phoebe and Marshall break down how that song went from an unfinished cassette recording, to an acoustic demo, and then finally to the album version. And then, after that, after you hear "Scott Street" in its entirety, Phoebe and I talk about writer’s block: what causes it for her, and how’s she’s dealt with it. So stick around after the full song to hear that conversation. songexploder.net/phoebe-bridgers
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4 novembre 2020 - 00:20:30
Deftones are a Grammy-winning band from Sacramento who’ve sold over ten million albums. Their ninth album, Ohms, came out this year, on September 25th, 2020. In this episode, singer Chino Moreno breaks down how the title track came together, and how they literally went back to where things started in order to create it. songexploder.net/deftones
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21 octobre 2020 - 00:20:35
Rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P first met in 2011. They both had established rap careers, but they entered a new era when they started making music together as Run the Jewels in 2013. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy, and they released their fourth album, RTJ4, in June 2020. Like all of their albums, they made it available to download for free. In this episode, El-P and Killer Mike break down the song "JU$T," which features guest vocals from their frequent collaborator, Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, and guest vocals from Pharrell Williams. songexploder.net/run-the-jewels
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7 octobre 2020 - 00:17:21
Dua Lipa is a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from London. Her second album, Future Nostalgia, came out in March 2020. It hit #1 on the charts in thirteen countries, and it was shortlisted for the UK’s Mercury Prize. Dua co-wrote the song "Levitating" with some of her closest collaborators, including producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, AKA Koz. In this episode, Dua and Koz break down “Levitating” and how Dua’s childhood memories shaped its sound. songexploder.net/dua-lipa
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23 septembre 2020 - 00:19:10
Selena Gomez is a singer, songwriter, and actress, who’s spent most of her life in the public eye. She started her acting career as a child, and put out her first albums as a teenager. She’s had three number one albums and eight Top 10 hits, and in 2017, Billboard named her Woman of the Year. At one point, she was the most followed person on Instagram, and the details of her life are constantly discussed in tabloid headlines. So, when your private life is that public, how do you write a song about something as personal as heartbreak? Selena teamed up with the Grammy-winning production duo Mattman & Robin, who she’d worked with before. And she turned to her longtime songwriting collaborators, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Julia Michaels is also a Grammy-nominated artist in her own right, and Justin Tranter, also a Grammy nominee, was named BMI’s 2017 Pop Songwriter of the Year. The three of them have written 10 songs together, including this one, “Lose You to Love Me.” The song came out in October 2019, and went on to become Selena’s first number-one hit. It went double-platinum in the US, and was named one of the best songs of the year by Vulture and Billboard. In this episode, Selena, Julia and Justin break down how the song came to be. songexploder.net/selena-gomez
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16 septembre 2020 - 00:21:17
On August 28, 2020, actor Chadwick Boseman died. He was only 43 years old. Unbeknownst to many, even some of his closest collaborators, he’d been battling colon cancer since 2016. His family released a statement, and in it, they said, "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther." After hearing the news, I went back and re-watched the movie, and I don’t know, it was a completely different experience this time. I went and listened to the score again, and that had changed for me, too. So, I wanted to back and share this episode from 2018, about a piece of the film’s score by composer Ludwig Göransson. It’s one of my favorites, and since it first aired, Ludwig went on to win the Grammy and Oscar for the Black Panther score. I hope you enjoy this re-visiting this episode, and I hope it makes you remember how great Black Panther is, and how great Chadwick Boseman is in it, in a role that defined a career that was way too short. · · ·  Marvel’s Black Panther was released in theaters on February 16, 2018, and in just a few weeks, it made over a billion dollars worldwide. It’s already broken some box office records and it looks like it’s going to break some more. The score for the film was created by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson. His film and tv credits include Creed and New Girl. He’s also Grammy-nominated producer, who’s worked most often with rapper Childish Gambino. In this episode, Ludwig takes apart one of his pieces from Black Panther. The track is called "Killmonger," and it’s the theme for Erik Killmonger, a character played by Michael B. Jordan. Black Panther is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and coming up, Ludwig tells the story of doing research and making recordings in Africa, and how he incorporated that into the score for the film. For more, visit songexploder.net/black-panther
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9 septembre 2020 - 00:20:24
Kelly Lee Owens is an electronic music producer and songwriter originally from Wales. She’s released two critically acclaimed albums and done remixes for Björk and St. Vincent. Her most recent album is is called Inner Song. It came out in August, following what Kelly described as the hardest three years of her life. In this episode, she takes apart her song "On," and explains how its tone and shifts mirrored her journey processing her own trauma. songexploder.net/kelly-lee-owens
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26 août 2020 - 00:17:12
Black Pumas formed in Austin, Texas in 2017, when singer Eric Burton met producer Adrian Quesada. Their self-titled debut was released in June 2019, and got them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. In this episode, they break down their hit song “Colors,” which Eric started writing ten years ago, when he was first learning how to play guitar. songexploder.net/black-pumas
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12 août 2020 - 00:18:16
The 1975 are a band from Manchester, England, made up of Matty Healy, Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald, and George Daniel. They started playing music together in 2002, when they were teenagers. Since then, they’ve released four albums, won three Brit awards, and gotten two Grammy nominations. Their most recent album, Notes on a Conditional Form, came out in May 2020. In this episode, Matty and George break down how they made the song “The Birthday Party.” songexploder.net/the-1975
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29 juillet 2020 - 00:17:27
Katie Crutchfield is a singer and songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama. She’s been making music under the name Waxahatchee since 2010. Her fifth album, Saint Cloud, came out this past March. Pitchfork named it Best New Music, and The Guardian called it the best album of the year so far. In this episode, Katie breaks down how she made the song “Fire." songexploder.net/waxahatchee
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15 juillet 2020 - 00:25:15
Khruangbin is a band from Houston, Texas, who first formed in 2010. NME called them the "low key superstars" of psychedelic music. They’ve released three albums. The most recent, which came out in June 2020, is called Mordechai. In the past, most of Khruangbin’s songs have been instrumental, or if they did have vocals, they'd be minimal. Their new album is different. It features vocals prominently, and in this episode, the three of them explain their philosophy on vocals and their process on writing lyrics. I spoke to each of them to get their perspective on how they made the song "So We Won’t Forget." songexploder.net/khruangbin
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1 juillet 2020 - 00:26:26
The Netflix original series Dark debuted in December 2017. It’s a really mysterious, mind-bending German science fiction show with a unique tone. A big part of that tone is announced every episode with the music in the show’s opening title sequence. It’s the song “Goodbye,” by German electronic artist Apparat, the solo project of Sascha Ring. This song actually came out years ago, on the 2011 Apparat album The Devil’s Walk. Since then, before it was used as the theme song for Dark, it’s been featured in a bunch of films and commercials, and notably, in the Season 4 finale of Breaking Bad. The final season of Dark just came out last week, so I wanted to find out how the show’s theme music was made. “Goodbye” features vocals from Anja Plaschg, an Austrian artist who makes music under the name Soap&Skin. In this episode, Sascha and Anja break down how the song was created. songexploder.net/apparat
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17 juin 2020 - 00:20:44
The rappers Prodigy and Havoc met when they were still in high school in New York. Havoc grew up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing projects in the country, and as a teenager, Prodigy lived there for a while, too. The two of them formed Mobb Deep in 1991. In 1995, they put out their second album, The Infamous. It was a success when it came out, but in the 25 years since then, the influence of the album has only grown. Complex named it one of the 10 best rap albums of the 90s, and Pitchfork gave the album a rare perfect score, 10 out of 10. The Washington Post called it a “masterpiece” of hardcore rap, and in Slate, it was called one of the best albums of the ‘90s, and one of the best hip-hop albums ever made. Their biggest song from the album was “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” Havoc made the now-legendary beat that he and Prodigy rap over. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Havoc told me the story of how the whole song came together. Prodigy passed away in 2017, from complications due to sickle-cell anemia, a debilitating disease he’d battled his entire life. But the legacy of Mobb Deep lives on. A new, expanded, 25th anniversary edition of The Infamous just came out in April. songexploder.net/mobb-deep
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